Publication Date

Fall 10-31-2015


Helms School of Government


International Relations


Iran, Nuclear Program, Sanctions, US Foreign Policy, IAEA, JCPOA, P5+1, E3/EU+3


American Politics | Defense and Security Studies | International Relations | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Peace and Conflict Studies | Public Policy


This thesis attempts to ask how the United States should conduct foreign policy towards Iran given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed to on 14 June 2015. The 2015 JCPOA initiated a drastic shift in US foreign policy toward Iran. It is now up to US policy makers to craft a coherent Iran foreign policy moving forward from the agreement. In order to accomplish this, the vitriolic relationship between Iran and the United States, which contains two concurrent narratives, must be examined. The dual narratives are the history of the successive US Presidential administrations’ relations with Iran, and the history of Iran’s nuclear development and resulting UN sanctions.

This thesis asserts that policy makers must craft a workable foreign policy, and the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action must be highlighted and executed. Additionally, Iran’s history of failing to uphold agreements must be acknowledged, as its history of duplicitous actions indicates their likely future course. This paper will rehearse Iran’s longstanding involvement in global terrorism to argue that the JCPOA must be strictly followed. This historical background and the details of the current agreement form the foundation for constructing a coherent foreign policy regarding Iran.

With the groundwork laid, three different policy alternatives are evaluated. The first is an optimistic acceptance of the JCPOA, second is a total rejection of the JCPOA, and third is a cautious acceptance of the JCPOA with additional supplemental verification. The policy of optimism regarding the agreement is rejected due to its failure to take into consideration the realities of the threats posed by Iran. Additionally, the recommendations of some to jettison the JCPOA and continue with the status quo are also evaluated and rejected due to implementation issues and negligible international support. Finally, this thesis proposes a policy that distrusts Iran, proactively verifies Iran’s compliance, and supports US allies in the region. Seven specific steps are proposed to implement this recommendation, forming the policy most likely to achieve the objective of securing lasting peace, both with Iran and with the Middle East as a whole.